One, arguably the only, advantage of living where I do in Milton Keynes is that it is centrally located. Meaning almost every UK (and many Irish) courses can be covered in a day trip. Very handy for a homebird like me.
The downside is the old car can take a hammering, with a weekly mileages in excess of 1,000 miles not uncommon. Not very good in these days of green awareness and my carbon footprint must be Jolly Green Giant sized.
So, as an experiment, I thought I would have a look at using public transport to go racing where practicable. Now please note the use of the qualification in that last statement – “where practicable”. Some courses just do not lend themselves to public transport access, unsurprisingly most of these are rural courses, Kelso and Fakenham are two that spring immediately to mind. Both well away from airports and rail networks.
My first green foray was to deepest Devon and Newton Abbot. An essential is advanced planning, on the day rail transport is very expensive. Yet book in advance and you can make some great savings. For the Newton Abbot trip it cost me £35 return from Reading, as opposed to the ‘on the day’ fare of £56. (Indeed if you book far enough in advance you can get the price down to £22 or even less). One ironic problem is I find it more tiring sitting in a train than I do driving. The big plus was I had a chance to study the form and learn the colours during the two hour journey.
An added bonus is the stretch of railway from Exeter to Newton Abbot is stunning with the track running, literally, feet from the sea. Upon arrival the course was about ¾ of a mile from the station, although there is no indication of how to get to the course. Options are either walking or taxi.
For this day public transport was an advantage, certainly quicker than driving and I didn’t have to fight the cars leaving the course.
Next up was Newcastle. This time a train from Peterborough and another bargain this time costing £32.70 return (Full price £76.90). Journey time to Newcastle was 2¼ hours and without any hitches. Once in Newcastle getting to the course was a challenge. I was running late so decided to get a cab, £20 thank you very much, two thirds the cost of the return train fare. Getting back I used the free shuttle bus to the Metro and then the Metro (£2) into town.
On a roll, Chester was next up. This time spontaneous so it was a full fare £48.50, at least the train was from Milton Keynes. The day started badly. At the station there were massive queues at the ticket office and the automatic ticket machine refused to sell me a saver return, so I had to join the queue. Despite arriving at the station with 15 mins to spare I ended up having to sprint to the train – I didn’t even have time to buy a Racing Post. At least I caught the train. The first 50 mins went perfectly, then the train stopped outside Litchfield and it waited and waited – in fact it waited 40 minutes in total – due to a signal failure. Needless to say I missed the connection from Crew to Chester. On arrival in Chester I was faced with a 20 min walk to the course or a taxi – I decided to walk. The trouble was it was a warm day and Chester have a strict, wear a jacket, dress code so I arrived at the course somewhat glowing, as they say.
The racing at Chester wasn’t going well so I decided to skip the last race and get an earlier train home. Walking fast I thought I could make the 5:00 train from Chester to Crew. I did make it, with 30 seconds to spare. The only trouble was the train was a single carriage unit and an earlier train had been cancelled – let us just say it was a very intimate 20 odd minute journey. Is there a Guinness Book Of Records entry for the most people in a railway carriage?
On reaching Crew I then discovered there was a 1¼ hour wait for the next direct train to MK. So being clever I thought I would go via Birmingham – a quick check of the connections and yes I would actually get home half an hour earlier than waiting for the direct train. Result. No - Stewards Enquiry.
The train from Crewe was 10 minutes late setting off but I still had 20 minutes to play with for my connection. I was typing up my notes and not fully concentrating on the journey when I looked up and realized the train was not going that fast for an inter-city Voyager or whatever it was called. It came home just how slow it was going as it pulled into Birmingham New Street adjacent to the platform where the MK train was pulling out from – the curse of the day continued. I had an hour to wait for the next train and I was hungry. Here is an interesting fact for you – there is nowhere within ½ mile of Birmingham New Street station where you can get decent hot food at 18:30 in the evening – OK you can get burgers etc but I have some respect for my body!!
By now my greenness was starting to fade!
One final blast was York. Again from Peterborough, only £16.75 return, booked in advance and just over 1¼ hours on the train. This time a smooth journey with no problems with the choice of a nice 20 min walk, bus or taxi from the station to the course.
So will I go green in future? Despite the nightmare journey to Chester I think I will, although I will be more inclined to book in advance to take advantage of the cheaper prices. Traveling by train does give you a chance to work as you travel and, for some journeys, it can be quicker. The downside is you have little or no control when things do go awry and I must admit I find that uncomfortable.
I will, I am sorry to admit, still use non-green public transport when going to some courses. With the advent of the low cost airlines, getting cheap flights to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin puts many more courses in striking distance of a day trip and I happen to love flying!!!
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